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‘Fear of screening has resulted in more women getting cancer’

FEAR of breast cancer screening among women has resulted in more women getting affected by the malignant disease. BY PHYLLIS MBANJE/NIZBERT MOYO Organisations such as the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe (CAZ) say that this is worsened by the fact that generally women in rural areas have no access to information on breast cancer. CAZ says there is need to encourage women to undergo regular screening of cancer, adding that it is still difficult to convince most of them to do so. Religiously every year, October has been set aside globally for drawing attention to the vicious disease which affects one in every eight women. Women, who spoke to NewsDay, confirmed that they were afraid to go for cancer screening as they perceived it as a death sentence. “I have never gone for breast cancer screening simply because I am afraid. At times not knowing that one has cancer is better because we have other crises to deal with already,” said a vendor at Copacabana bus terminus in Harare. Her colleagues were in agreement that they were scared of knowing whether they had breast cancer or not. These same attitudes were exhibited by women who participated in a study in Mudzi which looked at knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to breast and cervical cancers. The study was shared in a public health journal last year. According to CAZ, a number of screening tests have been employed including clinical and self-breast exams, mammography, genetic screening, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In Zimbabwe Breast Self-Examination (BSE) is encouraged since most of the lumps are discovered by the women themselves. Breast screening may find cancers early. In older women it saves lives since if a cancer is found, it is likely to be smaller. It may, therefore, be possible to remove the lump (by a lumpectomy) instead of removing the whole breast (a mastectomy). But sadly the bulk of women do not know all these benefits and how to access them while early detection of cancer can save lives. Meanwhile, Mpilo Hospital clinical director Xolani Ndlovu has said that prostate cancer is a cause of 20% of all cancers among men. Ndlovu told NewsDay in an interview that prostate cancer is a major cause of death in the country after cervical cancer. “Among both sexes prostate cancer has the fourth highest incidence of deaths after cancer of the cervix, breast cancer and Kaposi Sarcoma with 7,4% of all new cases recorded in 2018 being prostate cancer,” Ndlovu said. He said most cases of early prostate cancer were asymptomatic; hence most men were unable to know that they have cancer until it was relatively at an advanced stage. The medical expert said all men over the age of 45 were encouraged to go for early prostate cancer screening.